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Diversity Targets Cause Adversity

  • November 18, 2021
 

THE BAR COUNCIL WARNS LEADERS NOT TO TAKE THEIR EYES OFF THE BALL IN FIGHT AGAINST INEQUALITY. 

However, are they attempting to play football with a basketball? 

What has Happened? 

In November 2021, the Bar Council’s Race Working Group released its long-awaited Report entitled “Race at the Bar: A Snapshot Report” – November 2021. The Group commissioned the research with the express aim of ‘tackling race inequality at the Bar’.  

What Does it Mean? 

The Report made for grim reading for the legal profession as it found that barristers from BAME backgrounds building a successful career ‘face systematic obstacles’. It highlighted the problems being faced by people in this situation. Firstly, BAME candidates statistically have significantly lower chances of accessing pupillage opportunities. Secondly, it found that in the recruitment of QC’s, people from the BAME community are ‘underrepresented’. Thirdly, in the process of appointing members of the judiciary, they seemingly have a lower probability of successfully attaining such judicial positions.           

What Impact Could it Have on the Legal Profession?

This Report has made a significant splash on the profession as the Bar Council’s Race Working Group has several suggestions to address the racial imbalance. As a result of this publication, there will likely be a revolution in the approach taken to address this issue from a cultural level. The Bar Council’s Race Working Group co-chairs, Barbera Mills QC and Simon Regis recommended leaving behind the strategy of ‘ad hoc’ and ‘good intentions’ to increase diversity. They would like the system to become one that is firstly more strategic and secondly has enough funding to support it.     

Stringent targets will likely be introduced by some of the leading barrister chambers in England and Wales. The Report has set its sights on two key areas. Firstly, the recruitment process and secondly, the retention of barristers as there is an aim of increasing the pay for BAME barristers (which is lower than average). Following this announcement, there appears to be a higher probability that the spotlight will very much be shone on the financial compensation and income barristers receive. 

The Bar Council then turned its attention to the people who keep the courts moving daily and are responsible for most of the administration of justice. By this, the Report was explicitly referring to court clerks. The ‘priority’ for the Bar Council Working Group is to improve diversity. In this regard, the profession will make great strides in the number of people appointed from the BAME community.  

Central to this Report was the suggestion of introducing targets for the appointment of the judiciary and Queen’s Counsel. It also pleads the profession to implement a ‘zero-tolerance strategy to ‘bullying, harassment and discrimination’. As punishment, it recommends ‘effective sanctions’ to be brought in.  However, it does not appear to specify what these sanctions should be, so in this regard, it is challenging to determine if such sanctions will be effective or not. 

However, the elephant in the room is the research conducted by Professor Baverman of Harvard Business School. It was found that in many cases setting targets causes ‘more harm than good’. These targets seemingly have four adverse effects on clients. Firstly, by merely setting ambitious goals, there is a risk of ‘unethical behaviour’ rearing its ugly head and solicitors finding themselves in hot water with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. If lawyers fail to adhere to expected standards and ethics, they may find themselves investigated, suspended from practice or struck off the prestigious roll of solicitors unable to practice.  

Secondly, commercially if key business leaders resolutely aim for success on targets, they risk taking their eye off the ball and preventing other parts of the business from flourishing. This will have a knock-on effect on the culture the owners are trying to produce, which will noticeably lower morale throughout the workforce

By way of example, Ford produced a car named the Ford Pinto in the 1970s for the retail price of under $2,000. Bargain? Right?  However, by focussing resolutely on arbitrary targets, they missed the elephant in the room, which was safety. They did not call it the EXPLOSIVE Ford Pinto for nothing. The designers produced a vehicle with a dangerous petrol tank that was prone to explode after rear-end collisions, and consequently, fifty-three people had their lives cut tragically short. This led to a raft of legal claims and compensation pay-outs. 

Assessing firms

#AddingtonChambers #Pryors #TisshawSolicitors #Cloisters #MauriceBlackburnLawyers #Kennedys

This Article was Written Using the Following Sources

[Source 1] Mills, Barbera – QC and Regis, Simon – Race at the Bar: A Snapshot Report – November 2021 - Race-at-the-Bar-Report-2021.pdf (barcouncil.org.uk);

[Source 2] Tobin, Simon – Ethnic minority barristers face ‘systematic obstacles’ to rewarding careers – Law Society Gazette – 5 November 2021 - Ethnic minority barristers face ‘systemic obstacles’ to rewarding careers | News | Law Gazette;

[Source 3] Silverthorne, Sean and Professor Bazerman, Max – Why Setting Goals Can Do More Harm Than Good – Harvard Business School - HBS Working Knowledge – 2013 - Why Setting Goals Can Do More Harm Than Good (forbes.com)

[Source 4] Schweitzer, Adam et al – Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting – 11 February 2009 – Harvard Business School - Why Setting Goals Can Do More Harm Than Good (forbes.com)

[Source 5] Meekings, Alan – How to avoid the problems of Target-Setting - PMA-Symposium-Target-Setting-Paper-v1.41.pdf (landmarkconsulting.co.uk)    

Written by Jason Connolly